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Tale of Jimi and Jimmy

BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
Observer senior writer

Friday, September 18, 2020

Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Cliff were artistes from entirely different worlds living in London during the Swinging Sixties. One was a psychedelic bluesman, the other a ska and rocksteady act.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Hendrix' death. The man considered the greatest guitarist in pop music died in London at age 27 from a drug overdose.

Born in Seattle, Washington, Hendrix cut his teeth playing with acts like King Curtis and The Isley Brothers. But it was in the racially and musically tolerant United Kingdom that he got his break.

He moved there in late 1966 around the same time Cliff, a former child star, went to the UK and signed with Island Records.

On January 14 1967, Hendrix' band The Experience shared the stage with Cliff at the Beachcomber Club in Nottingham. Cliff was backed by The Shakedown Sound.

He remembered the show in a 2012 interview with Reggaeville.com.

“I used to play the clubs. I think I was playing in Nottingham. A week before my gig they asked me, 'Y'know there's this new guitarist... do you mind if he opens for you?' It wasn't like a real opener because I used to do two sets so they said, 'Do you mind if he does one set in between your two?' I didn't mind, I didn't know him, but when he came to the club I had just finished my first set so when I came off he came to me and said, 'What's the name of your your band, man?' I said, 'Jimmy Cliff and the Shakedown Sounds'. He said 'Maaaaan... you can sing! I can't sing. I can just play my guitar' (laughs). Apparently, he didn't have all that much confidence in his singing! But then he went on and he tore the place up! After that we became pretty close. Every time we were coming back from a gig up north or down south, we'd stop at (a) café and talk about how our gigs went and how things were going. He was one of the kindest people you could ever find,” said Cliff.

That summer, Hendrix and The Experience exploded in the UK with their debut album, Are You Experienced? He became a superstar after a show-stopping performance at the Monterey Pop festival in June.

At the time of Hendrix' death, Cliff was a bona fide star in the UK, thanks to songs like Waterfall and Wonderful World, Beautiful People.

World-famous through his role in the 1972 movie, The Harder They Come, Cliff, now in his late 70s, is a two-time winner of the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album.